Poetry as testimony

I have long been an evangelist for poetry, a word which seems to engender as much cheer in the average American as the word "Calvinism." I am not easily discouraged, and in most of my speaking engagements manage to sneak in a poem or two, by myself and other contemporary poets, to demonstrate that listening to poetry can be enjoyable as well as illuminating.

In fact, as an oral art, poetry is far more compelling than prose, something that is reconfirmed to me every time I begin to read a poem in the middle of a sermon and observe people sitting up straighter and listening more attentively, as if I'm reading again from the Bible. It seems to me that at its best poetry does inspire the heart in a way that is similar to scripture. Like scripture, a fully realized poem is not mired in the surfaces of things but has immediate access to our inner being.


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